Like many Arizona students, Ted Christie '92 BSBA (Finance) came from humble beginnings. Raised in a middle-class family of four children, Ted took advantage of the in-state full-tuition scholarship made available to him due to his successful high school career. With his tuition secured, he had to decide where he wanted to pursue his higher education—debating between The University of Arizona and ASU. In the end, it was the city of Tucson and its lifestyle which drew him to the University of Arizona. “I met my wife there. She is also a graduate, so that part of my life worked out very well”, says Christie.
When Ted was an Eller student, McClelland Hall had yet to be built. As such, he and the other business students did not have a centralized place to study and collaborate like students do now. However, he found his community when he joined the largest business fraternity on-campus, Delta Sigma Pi. “A lot of my peers were part of it, so it helped stitch us together”.
Although now he is President and CEO at Spirit Airlines, Ted’s path after leaving Eller started with pursuing a career as a musician. He embarked on those efforts with the same dedication and drive as any other pursuit in his life. He eventually began working full-time in a role which required a manageable time spend, allowing room in his schedule to look at other opportunities. After performing different roles across several organizations and industries, Ted had developed foundational skills and a better understanding of what he wanted from his career. His willingness to try new things and tenacity for learning led him to be recruited for a role in which he directly reported to the CFO of a public company and realized his love of FP&A and treasury work.
Roughly a year after taking on his current role, the Covid-19 pandemic almost completely shut down the airline industry. Ted cites this as being the most challenging part of his career to date. Ted describes the experience, “From March 2020 to Summer 2020, the airline business was largely not functioning. This is an industry which employs almost a million people country-wide. That period was very scary. What I was pleased to see was my group responded as I hoped and expected – led with their chin and went out there to see how we were going to dig us out of this. I was fortunate to have an energetic and passionate group of people. I think it became personal because we realized if we don’t do anything, then a lot of people are going to go without an income. We rallied around the family.”
When asked how what he learned at Eller helped him overcome this challenge, Ted responded, “You learn a lot about maturity and self-reliance and it’s a competitive environment as well. Building teams and solving problems developed skills. All of those are contributory to helping manage crisis.”
Ted has continued to be a supporter of Eller since graduation. We are excited to host him on-campus in September 2023 for a Finance Speaker Event.